Cornwall Sand Dune Bioblitz Engagement Case Study
Case Study Type:
Public Engagement Case Study
Sand dune system:
The Towans, Hayle, Cornwall
Case Study Subject:
Bioblitz: a 24 hour event to engage local community and visitors with sand dune nature and to record species
About The Dune System Engagement Intervention
Site background information
The site is made up of multiple areas, owned and managed by various private land-owners and organisations. We set up our base camp at Gwithian Towans but also had meeting points at other locations (Gwithian Green, St Gothian Sands and Upton Towans) for various guided walks.
What was the issue/change you hoped to make?
Our aims were two-fold: to record as many plant and animal species as possible over 24 hours, with the help of local wildlife experts; and to engage with visitors and local people, via guided nature walks and fun family activities, in order to increase people’s understanding of the dunes and value to them as a special place for wildlife.
What was the suggested intervention?
To hold a 24-hour Bioblitz, coinciding with World Sand Dune Day, in order to record species in the area and to engage with local people and visitors, increasing their knowledge and appreciation of dune wildlife.
What did you do and how?
We worked with local wildlife experts and volunteers to form a timetable of events, including guided nature walks and botanical drawing. We advertised this widely using posters and social media.
At the event, we set up a base camp close to the large public carpark at Gwithian Towans. We had several gazebos, flags and sandwich boards to increase visibility. We had a variety of arts and crafts activities available for families including badge making and fingerprint insect art. As we had various locations as meeting points for walks, we asked volunteers to wait at these to help people find them.
We created record sheets for each of the four locations and volunteers recorded each species found on the various walks. We also had a large whiteboard on display, on which we recorded species after each walk, so people could easily see what had been spotted. These records have since been collated and passed on to both ERCCIS and ERICA’s record databases.
How did you do engage different groups and who did you work with?
We organised the event with help from local wildlife education CIC Budding Nature and from Towans Ranger Martin Rule. We invited local experts to lead guided walks in their area of specialism; these included Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s West Cornwall Reserves Manager Nick Marriott, members of Cornwall Reptile and Amphibian Group and Cornwall Butterfly Conservation and the team from Buglife’s local B-lines project. Dynamic Dunescapes volunteers helped with setting up the base camp, meeting participants at the various locations and helping things run smoothly.
We advertised the event by putting up posters in local cafes, supermarkets, libraries and on noticeboards. We promoted it on social media and asked local schools to share it on their newsletter or Facebook page. On the day we set up our base camp in a visible and well-frequented location, to attract both local dune-users and holiday makers.
How was the intervention monitored?
The impact was monitored via social media activity, as well as people engagement and record creation on the day. To promote the Bioblitz, we created a Facebook event on our Dynamic Dunescapes Cornwall page, which we then pushed to a wider audience by paying to ‘boost’ it; this reached 24,484 people and got 275 responses. We also posted in advance to promote the event on Facebook (4,597 people reached / 209 engagements) and Instagram (152 accounts reached / 14 engagements) and did a live Facebook video on the day, which received 183 views. During the event we engaged with 192 members of the public, as well as 18 volunteer helpers. Between everyone involved, the total number of species recorded during the 24 hour period was 430.
Highlight any issues/obstacles & how you overcame them?
The main issue was poor weather during the event, with strong winds and heavy rain showers experienced, especially on the Saturday. This had an effect on the number of participants, with very few calling by to chat and meet people at the base camp. Unfortunately, the wind and rain also made it unfeasible to do the arts and crafts activities and it meant that some of the guided walks needed to be delayed or cut short. However, all the walks went ahead – most as planned - and some were very well attended, despite the weather.
Did the intervention work?
Please describe how. What has changed?
The Bioblitz was a success in that we engaged with approximately 200 people over the weekend and we recorded 430 species of plants and animals on the site. It also provided a hub for local conservation groups and experts to get together.
What could be done differently?
Next time, it would be simpler to have all walks leading from one location and this would also have the added bonus of creating more of a buzz at the base camp: because there were several different starting points for walks, there was not enough of a congregation of people at base camp to attract in visitors from the beach and car park.
It may also be better to hold the event on one day, rather than 24 hours across two days, so that we would only have to set up and take down base camp gazebos etc. once. It might also make publicizing the event clearer for people.